December 10, 2010
Work on the river cleanup will likely begin in 2011 at the Trestle Area in the town of Deer Lodge. The Trestle Area, known locally as "Bum Bridge," is the railroad bridge that spans the Clark Fork River in town. And while the contamination level in the Trestle Area is not higher than other river areas, it's been assigned priority for cleanup by the Environmental Protection Agency because of human health risks stemming from the area's heavy foot traffic and recreational use, especially by children.
A design for the Trestle work is complete and has been reviewed by the EPA and the new Clark Fork River Design Review Team. Under the cleanup plan, the state will remove about 6900 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the site and replace it with clean soil. Stream banks will be stabilized and replanted with native vegetation. The work is scheduled for cleanup either next spring before high flows on the river or after high flows during the summer of 2011.
The next priority is the headwaters stretch of the Clark Fork River, known as Phase 1 by project planners. This stretch begins just below the Warm Springs Ponds and extends about 3.7 river miles downstream. The land is owned by Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) but will transfer to state ownership with the cleanup.
DEQ says it wants the cleanup on Phase 1 to serve as a model for landowners downstream. The work integrates DEQ-led remediation with restoration work led by the Natural Resources Damage Program (NRDP). DEQ sampled the area last year and hopes to have a draft design for Phase 1 in January for EPA and the design review team to review. The schedule then calls for a June bid with construction to begin in late summer or early fall.
In subsequent years, the cleanup on the Clark Fork River will proceed downstream from Phase 1 into private ranches in the Deer Lodge Valley. Sampling on this section, Phase 2, was conducted this year by DEQ and will be used to design specific cleanups for each property.